Where to See Wildlife in Victoria, Australia
From the dramatic coast to the rugged, national park-filled interior, Victoria is home to some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife. Despite being the second smallest state Down Under, its rich landscapes are bursting with species – on land and in the surrounding waters – here’s where, and when, to see the very best of them:
WHERE? Phillip Island
WHEN? Sunset, year-round – even on Christmas Day!
The little penguins of Phillip Island are a world-famous spectacle – renowned for their nightly waddle from ocean to sandy burrow. Come sunset, they arrive en masse, parading (hence the ‘Penguin Parade’ moniker) towards the boardwalk in cute and quirky fashion, much to the delight of the nearby audience. Top tip? Arrive early to explore the visitor centre first, and to nab a front row seat on the viewing platforms. Or, buy an ‘Underground’ ticket, and get even closer to the action.
WHERE? Great Ocean Road
Victoria is blessed with whale-rich waters – think humpbacks, southern rights, blues and orcas, to name a few. And, thanks to their ever-growing numbers, you can often spot them from the Great Ocean Road coastline, fluking and breaching as they migrate to these warmer waters. To increase your chances of seeing whales, head for Portland, Warrnambool and Phillip Island and join a wildlife cruise. If you’re lucky, you might see seals and dolphins too!
WHERE? Grampians or Wilsons Promontory national parks
Different breeds of Australia’s most iconic animal can be found all over Victoria, but our favourite spots are the national parks. Whether you’re just spending a day hiking in one, or are camping for a few days, nothing beats seeing a kangaroo or a wallaby in the wild while you’re exploring – it makes the experience all the more authentic.
WHERE? Kennett River, Otway Coast
Just 20 minutes from Lorne, off the Great Ocean Road, is the meandering Kennett River. Stop off here and follow the aptly named ‘Koala Walk’, where you’re likely to spot these sleepy marsupials lazing in the trees above, occasionally munching on eucalyptus. If you’re struggling to spot one in the wild, head for the Koala Conservation Centre on Phillip Island, Yarra Valley's Healesville Sanctuary, or the Mornington Peninsula’s Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park.
WHERE? Healesville Sanctuary, Yarra Valley
WHEN? Year-round, but they are likely to be hibernating between February and June
At first glance, you may confuse the echidna with a garden variety hedgehog. But on closer inspection, you’ll see the anteater-esque beak of this spiky-furry hybrid, not to mention big forepaws, perfect for digging. It really is a unique sighting, especially when you learn this fascinating fact: apart from the platypus, it is the only mammal that lays eggs.
WHERE? Lake Elizabeth, near Forrest
WHEN? Dawn and dusk year-round
It’s not easy to spot the shy platypus in the wild – I tried when I visited Australia last year, but to no avail. But head to Lake Elizabeth, and your chances are pretty strong. Locals reckon there are between six and eight here, and the best way to catch a glimpse is by getting on the water – in a canoe. Platypus hunt and dive for food at sunset and sunrise, so visit the lake around this time to increase your likelihood of a sighting.
WHERE? Tower Hill State Game Reserve, Warrnambool
Emus tend to avoid populated places, so you’ll need to get off the beaten track for an encounter with this flightless bird. They roam freely in the Tower Hill State Game Reserve – an animal-rich wilderness inside an extinct volcano. Visit after lunchtime and you might find them lurking around the picnic area, in search of food scraps!
WHERE? Seal Rocks, off Phillip Island
WHEN? Year-round, but Oct-Dec is breeding season, so you can spot pups too
You can see how Seal Rocks earned their name – more than 16,000 fur seals reside here. You can look down on them as they soak up the sun from the cliffs of Phillip Island, or paddle out to the rocks in kayaks or canoes for an up-close encounter. For the largest colony of Australian fur seals in the southern hemisphere, try Lady Julia Percy Island, off the coast of Port Fairy, which is a great spot for discovering a multitude of wildlife.